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411's MMA Rankings 01.29.13: Lightweight Division
Posted by Jonathan Solomon on 01.29.2013





Welcome to the final blast of MMA Rankings goodness of January courtesy of the MMA zone and our own cast of characters. These are also the first lightweight rankings of 2013 and much has changed from even three weeks ago with the end of Strikeforce (and their stable of quality 155-pounders), Eddie Alvarez's fight outside a cage and the top of the UFC title picture heating up like it hasn't in years.

Days removed from the last UFC on Fox show, the man they call "Showtime" pulled off another show stealing performance as he defeated "Cowboy" Donald Cerrone via first round liver kick. Since he was promised a shot at the UFC crown following his December 2010 win against Benson Henderson in WEC, we've seen Gray Maynard, Henderson and Nate Diaz all receive shots instead and in April, you can add Gilbert Melendez to that list. This turn of events is the very reason why Pettis will now choose to sit on the sideline and wait for his title fight to come to him. Assuming his luck is not bad and Henderson/Melendez does NOT result in a draw, and whomever wins does so in a healthy manner, you can expect Pettis to fight the winner by September. Where do I sign?

While the top of the food chain in the UFC is looking like a million bucks, there's Bellator champion Michael Chandler. He could not have had a more impressive first title defense when he choked out former Olympian Rick Hawn in the main event of the company's debut on Spike earlier this month. As for who his next fights may be against, we have to wait a little longer before a season seven tournament champion is decided between Marcin Held and Dave Jansen. Plus, the new season eight field kicks off this Thursday with each quarterfinal fight airing on Spike.

Of course, based on what Bellator legal representation said in their court hearing last week with Eddie Alvarez, the promotion appears willing to put a Chandler rematch with Alvarez on pay-per-view. Of course, this seems a bit farfetched when you realize the promotion has NEVER run on that platform and if they were to do so, it would be tough to imagine they could break the 100,000 buyrate barrier. Of course, nobody figured Fedor Emelianenko would be as big a draw on PPV as he was for Affliction (over the six-figure mark), but neither Chandler nor Alvarez have quite the hype or following as the best heavyweight of all-time did.

Meanwhile, Alvarez's court case continues after a judge declined to issue an injunction and allow him to sign immediately with the UFC (and fight on the April PPV in Newark). The former Bellator champion hoped the impasse would end so he could fight on that show and earn quite the sizable PPV bonus thanks to the main event featuring Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen. Now, there's no telling how long this legal matter will continue, when it will end and whether Eddie is even interested in returning to Bellator if his path to the UFC is shut down down the road. Could he possibly decide to sit out a year? As the world turns..

Read on to find out which new UFC lightweight makes his first appearance this week and how guys like Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone fit into the big picture after their recent losses.

Before you do, note that I've taken the feedback part of the 411 MMA Rankings column out of its normal place. From hereon, your feedback/comments will be read and replied to via the Disqus format beneath the column.




WHO WAS 411's MMA FIGHTER OF THE YEAR?

ANDERSON SILVA? JON JONES? JOSE ALDO? BENSON HENDERSON? DANIEL CORMIER? RONDA ROUSEY?





RANKINGS FROM ONE YEAR AGO
01.10.12


1. Frankie Edgar

2. Gilbert Melendez

3. Ben Henderson

4. Gray Maynard

5. Clay Guida

6. Shinya Aoki

7. Nate Diaz

8. Michael Chandler

9. Jim Miller

10. Anthony Pettis

11. Joe Lauzon

12. Eddie Alvarez

13. Donald Cerrone

14. Melvin Guillard

15. Gleison Tibau





411's MMA Ranking Rules

Which fighters are eligible for these rankings? They must meet the following qualifications: fight at least once in the past 365 days or if they have not, be officially scheduled for an upcoming fight.

- A fighter serving a disciplinary suspension will not be ranked. They can return when they have served their suspension or in the event it is rescinded. This includes fighters who may disregard their suspension locally to fight overseas.

- If a fighter appears on just one single ballot, and in the top ten, five points will be deducted to balance between other fighters who may be ranked lower, but appear on a greater amount of ballots.

- Want to complain about a fighter's ranking in the comments section? Please include an objective reason why you despise the list, and try your best to bring the rest of us to your way of thinking.









411's Official MMA Rankings


Lightweight Division (155 lbs)






1) Benson Henderson (18-2)


Height: 5'9

Birthday: November 16, 1983

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Nate Diaz - Win via decision (unanimous) - UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Diaz - December 8, 2012

- vs. Frankie Edgar - Win via decision (unanimous) - UFC 150: Henderson vs. Edgar 2 - August 11, 2012

- vs. Frankie Edgar - Win via decision (unanimous) - UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson - February 25, 2012

- vs. Clay Guida - Win via decision (unanimous) - UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. dos Santos - November 12, 2011

- vs. Jim Miller - Win via decision (unanimous) - UFC on Versus: Hardy vs. Lytle - August 14, 2011

Next scheduled appearance:

- vs. Gilbert Melendez - UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Melendez - April 20, 2013

Comment: Henderson is the first UFC lightweight champion with the potential to unify the belt with the next best lightweight in the world, come April. With evening his last loss in the periphery, he'll need to focus on the always dangerous and last Strikeforce champion, Gilbert Melendez. It's as close to a super fight we can get these days and after disposing of another Cesar Gracie fighter in Nate Diaz last month, what are the odds he can bounce another down ladder of contenders?




2) Gilbert Melendez (21-2)


Height: 5'9

Birthday: April 12, 1982

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Josh Thomson - Win via decision (split) - Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier - May 19, 2012

- vs. Jorge Masvidal - Win via decision (unanimous) - Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal - December 17, 2011

- vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri - Win via TKO (strikes) - Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley - April 9, 2011

- vs. Shinya Aoki - Win via decision (unanimous) - Strikeforce: Nashville - April 17, 2010

- vs. Josh Thomson - Win via decision (unanimous) - Strikeforce: Evolution - December 19, 2009

Next scheduled appearance:

- vs. Benson Henderson - UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Melendez - April 20, 2013

Comment: Finally! Melendez will make his long awaited octagon debut in under three months time, a chance that's been talked about for years relating to him. He has twisted and turned from a top 5 fighter to the very best lightweight on the planet at one point, but now he's very clearly taken a back seat to Benson Henderson. On Fox, he'll be able to set the record straight and show the world whether he truly is the greatest lightweight on the planet.




3) "Showtime" Anthony Pettis (15-2)


Height: 5'9

Birthday: January 27, 1987

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Donald Cerrone - Win via TKO (liver kick) - UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Dodson - January 26, 2013

- vs. Joe Lauzon - Win via KO (head kick) - UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson - February 25, 2012

- vs. Jeremy Stephens - Win via decision (split) - UFC 136: Edgar vs. Maynard 3 - October 8, 2011

- vs. Clay Guida - Loss via decision (unanimous) - TUF 13 Finale - June 4, 2011

- vs. Ben Henderson - Win via decision (unanimous) - WEC 53: Henderson vs. Pettis - December 16, 2010

Next scheduled appearance:

- Unknown

Comment: SHOWTIME! Pettis returned after nearly one whole year off, from injuries, too, and could not have looked better. He got to Cerrone early and made it count with body strikes. He won thanks to a perfectly placed liver kick, so much so, that Bas Rutten had to have had a smile on his face when he saw it. Anthony wants a rematch with Benson Henderson, the reigning UFC champion, but he'll have to be patient once again. With Henderson/Melendez on tap for April, Pettis says he'll sit and wait for his turn but we've heard this before.

Hopefully all three can stay healthy and we get these two fights (either combination) in 2013.




4) Nate Diaz (16-8)


Height: 6'0

Birthday: April 16, 1985

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Benson Henderson - Loss via decision (unanimous) - UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Diaz - December 8, 2012

- vs. Jim Miller - Win via via submission (guillotine choke) - UFC on Fox: Diaz vs. Miller - May 5, 2012

- vs. Donald Cerrone - Win via decision (unanimous) - UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem - December 30, 2011

- vs. Takanori Gomi - Win via submission (armbar) - UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage - September 24, 2011

- vs. Rory MacDonald - Loss via decision (unanimous) - UFC 129: St. Pierre vs. Shields - April 30, 2011

Next scheduled appearance:

- Unknown

Comment: Diaz gave his best effort but could not muster up anything against Henderson on Fox last month. Now, he's about to get a new opponent according to UFC president Dana White. White could not confirm who it was but all he said was they're working on finalizing a new fight. It won't be Nurmagomedov, by the way (more on that below).




5) Michael Chandler (11-0)


Height: 5'8

Birthday: April 24, 1986

Currently Fighting With: Bellator Fighting Championship

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Rick Hawn - Win via submission (rear naked choke) - Bellator 85 - January 17, 2013

- vs. Akihiro Gono - Win via TKO (strikes) - Bellator 67 - May 4, 2012

- vs. Eddie Alvarez - Win via submission (rear naked choke) - Bellator 58 - November 19, 2011

- vs. Patricky Freire - Win via decision (unanimous) - Bellator 44 - May 14, 2011

- vs. Lloyd Woodard - Win via decision (unanimous) - Bellator 40 - April 8, 2011

Next scheduled appearance:

- Unknown

Comment: Over the last month, nobody looked more impressive than Michael Chandler. He was all over former Olympian Rick Hawn and ultimately choked him out in the second round. He is a fighter who constantly improves by leaps and bounds with every new fight and that's a scary thought moving forward.




6) Gray Maynard (11-1-1)


Height: 5'8

Birthday: May 9, 1979

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 6 fights:

- vs. Clay Guida - Win via decision (split) - UFC on FX: Maynard vs. Guida - June 22, 2012

- vs. Frankie Edgar - Loss via KO (strikes) - UFC 136: Edgar vs. Maynard 3 - October 8, 2011

- vs. Frankie Edgar - DRAW (split) - UFC 125: Resolution - January 1, 2011

- vs. Kenny Florian - Win via decision (unanimous) - UFC 118: Edgar vs. Penn 2 - August 28, 2010

- vs. Nate Diaz - Win by decision (split) - UFC Fight Night 20 - January 11, 2010

Next scheduled appearance:

- Injured (knee)





7) Jim Miller (22-4)


Height: 5'8

Birthday: August 30, 1983

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Joe Lauzon - Win via decision (unanimous) - UFC 155: dos Santos vs. Velasquez 2 - December 29, 2012

- vs. Nate Diaz - Loss via submission (guillotine choke) - UFC on Fox: Diaz vs. Miller - May 5, 2012

- vs. Melvin Guillard - Win via submission (rear naked choke) - UFC on FX: Guillard vs. Miller - January 20, 2012

- vs. Ben Henderson - Loss via decision (unanimous) - UFC on Versus: Hardy vs. Lytle - August 14, 2011

- vs. Kamal Shalorus - Win via TKO (strikes) - UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones - March 19, 2011

Next scheduled appearance:

- Unknown

Comment: Miller was a beast against Lauzon last month, going to work with elbows from the get go. If he can manage to have that kind of success against fighters towards the top of the division, he can avoid gatekeeper status. Either way, he remains one of the most entertaining fighters in the sport and he is always about business.




8) Eddie Alvarez (24-3)


Height: 5'9

Birthday: November 11, 1984

Currently Fighting With: Free Agent

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Patricky Freire - Win via KO (head kick) - Bellator 75 - October 12, 2012

- vs. Shinya Aoki - Win via TKO (strikes) - Bellator 66 - April 20, 2012

- vs. Michael Chandler - Loss via submission (rear naked choke) - Bellator 58 - November 19, 2011

- vs. Pat Curran - Win via decision (unanimous) - Bellator 39 - April 2, 2011

- vs. Roger Huerta - Win via TKO (doctor stoppage) - Bellator 33 - October 21, 2010

Next scheduled appearance:

- Unknown

Comment: Unfortunately, Alvarez's current fight is in a court room. He's battling with Bellator to be able to sign with the UFC. Last week, he lost one case in which the judge ruled against him and an injunction which would ave allowed him to do so. Now, the fight continues with Bellator claiming they matched everything in the UFC offer (including points on PPVs, bonus money, TV appearances, etc.) but Eddie disagrees because they have never run a PPV. For what it's worth, Bellator claims they have a title fight with Michael Chandler, a rematch, waiting for Eddie upon his return.




9) Pat "Bam Bam" Healy (29-16)


Height: 5'11

Birthday: July 20, 1983

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Kurt Holobaugh - Win via decision (unanimous) - Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine - January 12, 2013

- vs. Mizuto Hirota - Win via decision (unanimous) - Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy - July 14, 2012

- vs. Caros Fodor - Win via submission (arm-triangle choke) - Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey - March 3, 2012

- vs. Maximo Blanco - Win via submission (rear naked choke) - Strikeforce World Grand Prix: Barnett vs. Kharitonov - September 10, 2011

- vs. Eric Wisely - Win via decision (unanimous) - Strikeforce Challengers: Gurgel vs. Duarte - August 12, 2011

Next scheduled appearance:

- Unknown

Comment: Finally, Healy makes his way to the UFC as a resurgent lightweight. Since dropping down to 155-pounds, he's 8-1 with the one loss coming against Josh Thomson. Although he will not be among the immediate contenders right off the bat, he's not too far away. Perhaps, they will look to book a rematch between the two? I'd love to see it.




10) "Cowboy" Donald Cerrone (19-5-0-1)


Height: 6'

Birthday: March 29, 2983

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Anthony Pettis - Loss via TKO (liver kick) - UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Dodson - January 26, 2013

- vs. Melvin Guillard - Win via TKO (strikes) - UFC 150: Henderson vs. Edgar 2 - August 11, 2012

- vs. Jeremy Stephens - Win via decision (unanimous) - UFC on Fuel: Sung-Jung vs. Poirier - May 15, 2012

- vs. Nate Diaz - Loss via decision (unanimous) - UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem - December 30, 2011

- vs. Dennis Siver - Win via submission (rear naked choke) - UFC 137: Diaz vs. Penn - October 29, 2011

Next scheduled appearance:

- Unknown

Comment: That looked painful! Cowboy ate kicks and a punch to the body, the final one, a liver kick, sent him crumbling to the ground. It must be incredibly frustrating because besides blocking the kick, it's not the type of pain you can just persevere through, it's so debilitating.




11) Khabib Nurmagomedov (19-0)


Height: 5'10

Birthday: September 20, 1988

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Thiago Tavares - Win via TKO (strikes) - UFC on FX: Bisping vs. Belfort - January 19, 2013

- vs. Gleison Tibau - Win via decision (unanimous) - UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen 2 - July 7, 2012

- vs. Kamal Shalorus - Win via submission (rear naked choke) - UFC on FX: Guillard vs. Miller - January 20, 2012

- vs. Arymarcel Santos - Win via TKO (strikes) - ProFC 36: Battle on the Caucas - October 22, 2011

- vs. Vadim Sandulitsky - Win via submission (triangle choke) - ProFC/GM Fight: Ukraine Cup 3 - September 15, 2011

Next scheduled appearance:

- Unknown

Comment: Khabib continues his thrashing of opponents, winning his 19th fight in as many chances. He even called out Nate Diaz, saying he "really wants" to fight the former top contender. He may not get the Stockton native, but he should definitely get a top 15 fighter for his next outing in the octagon.





12) T.J. Grant (20-5)


Height: 5'11

Birthday: February 26, 1984

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Matt Wiman - Win via KO (strikes) - UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Dodson - January 26, 2013

- vs. Evan Dunham - Win via decision (unanimous) - UFC 152: Jones vs. Beflort - September 22, 2012

- vs. Carlo Prater - Win via decision (unanimous) - UFC on Fuel: Jung vs. Poirier - May 15, 2012

- vs. Shane Roller - Win via technical submission (armbar) - UFC on Versus: Cruz vs. Johnson - October 1, 2011

- vs. Ricardo Almeida - Loss via decision (unanimous) - UFC 124: St. Pierre vs. Koscheck - December 11, 2010

Next scheduled appearance:

- Unknown

Comment: Grant makes his 411 MMA Rankings debut following his impressive victory over Matt Wiman this past weekend. It gives him his fourth consecutive win as a lightweight since dropping down and he's now set up to get a fight against a bonafide top 10 or top 15 fighter.




13*) Joe Lauzon (22-8)


Height: 5'10

Birthday: May 22, 1984

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Jim Miller - Loss via decision (unanimous) - UFC 155: dos Santos vs. Velasquez 2 - December 29, 2012

- vs. Jamie Varner - Win via submission (triangle choke)- UFC on Fox: Shogun vs. Vera - August 4, 2012

- vs. Anthony Pettis - Loss via KO (head kick) - UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson - February 26, 2012

- vs. Melvin Guillard - Win via submission (rear naked choke) - UFC 136: Edgar vs. Maynard 3 - October 8, 2011

- vs. Curt Warburton - Win via submission (Kimura) - UFC on Versus: Kongo vs. Barry - June 26, 2011

Next scheduled appearance:

- Unknown

Comment: Lauzon lost a ton of blood exactly one month ago, needing dozens of stitches to close the wound on his head. Despite the mess and his loss, he did earn an extra $65,000 for having another fight of the night.




13*) Jamie Varner (21-7-1, 2 No Contests)


Height: 5'8

Birthday: October 12, 1984

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Melvin Guillard - Win via decision (split) - UFC 155: dos Santos vs. Velasquez 2 - December 29, 2012

- vs. Joe Lauzon - Loss via submission (triangle choke) - UFC on Fox: Shogun vs. Vera - August 4, 2012

- vs. Edson Barboza - Win via TKO (strikes) - UFC 146: dos Santos vs. Mir - May 26, 2012

- vs. Drew Fickett - Win via submission (strikes) - XFC 16: High Stakes - February 10, 2012

- vs. Nate Jolly - Win via KO (strikes) - XFC 14: Resurrection - October 21, 2011

Next scheduled appearance:

- Unknown

Comment: Varner outlasted Melvin Guillard and won his second UFC fight of last year. Now, he wants to fight Joe Lauzon to avenge his loss from the Fox card last summer. He also mentioned how he would like to fight Donald Cerrone again, although he believes a rematch with Lauzon is more realistic for now. He respects J-Lau's technical prowess but insists if he has a full camp, he can win.




15) Josh Thomson (19-5, 1 No Contest)


Height: 5'10

Birthday: September 21, 1978

Currently Fighting With: UFC

Last 5 fights:

- vs. Gilbert Melendez - Loss via decision (split) - Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier - May 19, 2012

- vs. K.J. Noons - Win via decision (unanimous) - Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey - March 3, 2012

- vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri - Loss via decision (unanimous) - Dynamite!! 2010 - December 31, 2010

- vs. JZ Cavalcante - Win via decision (unanimous) - Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Noons 2 - October 9, 2010

- vs. Pat Healy - Win via submission (rear naked choke) - Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum - June 26, 2010

Next scheduled appearance:

- Unknown



Final Notes: Rick Hawn received additional votes.






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